Down-home downtown 

 Of course, home is as much about food as the house, so it feels only fitting that corner cafe Sage has played such a big part in the culture of the emerging district since owners Kevin and Charifa Smith opened the restaurant in 2009. The refined but homey nature of the cuisine seems to suit the identity of the area to a T.

With a big, glass front, located on the corner of a low-rise apartment building, Sage nods to Deep Deuce past and present with both food and decor. The simple but charming interior is warmly lit with pendant lighting and anchored by a modern, wooden bar with a statement piece — a wall-enveloping photo of Deep Deuce circa mid-20th century — plastered against the back of the front room. More so than many restaurants, the setting seems to tell a story, showcasing the neighborhood’s history while looking forward.

The only thing more welcoming than the ambience is the food. Few dishes measure up to macaroni and cheese in terms of down-home comfort, so it seems only natural that Sage would center its menu around the gooey, melty treat.

right  It’s a favorite, the truffle mac ’n’ cheese dish at Sage.

I’ve had mac ’n’ cheese for dinner many a time, but the only thing that qualified it as such was the heaping quantities that I piled on my plate; Sage takes the idea, elevates and refines it. Gourmet ingredients — both expected and not — find their way onto the oozy plate, totally changing the makeup in a playful, child-playing-with-their-food sort of way.

The seafood mac ($15) has been done plenty of times before — especially with lobster — but this specific plate makes the plunge into the deep, blue sea with lump crab, petite shrimp and buttery scallops. It’s as fishy and briny as you might expect, purposefully so, as it transforms into a soulful, Northeastern coastal flavor profile.

The roasted chicken and truffle bowl ($13.50) makes the most culinary sense. The chicken takes naturally to the curly noodles, and the truffle sauce cuts the creamy cheese with its pungent earthiness. All the flavors balance out, but find their own room to shine. The beef and cheddar ($12.50) is another  warm, hearty offering that is deeply satisfying with strong, warm flavors.

slightly more daring spins on the favorite include the grilled shrimp
pesto or the Greek ’n’ Cheese (that’s chicken, feta, garlic, tomatoes
and kalamata olives). Last, but not least, is the three-cheese, which
finds Cheddar, Muenster and Gorgonzola baking into a fine, pleasantly
burnt crust over the soft, gooey noodles hiding beneath.

the macaroni presented to you feels like it could use a little
seasoning, that’s where the finishing salts come into play. With names
like Murray River and Cyprus Flake, the salts add smoky and tropical
flourishes, and come as a side to your meal (three for $2).

other entrées are still plates with which to be contended. The crab
cake ($17.50) especially pops with its perfectly paired red pepper
sauce, and the grilled salmon ($16) — topped with a garlic and scallion
beurre blanc — is a point of pride for the eatery.

Southern favorites find their place throughout the dinner and lunch
menus. The crispy pan-fried green tomatoes ($7.50) are served with a
sweet buttermilk ranch that would definitely do grandma proud. Other
subtly refined appetizer options include the grilled chili-lime chicken
wings ($8.50) that are served with a bright chili-lime cilantro sauce (a
serious threat to ranch in the fight for chicken-wing accompaniment).
The grilled vegetable platter ($8.50) — local vegetables seasoned with
salts and herbs, served alongside chips and a creamy hummus — is a diner

for being so potent with the delicious (if not entirely healthy) mac
’n’ cheese plates, Sage also does salads as good as most places around.
The sesame ahi salad ($12.50) certainly jumps out of the pack (school?)
with its tangy, ahi marinade laced over a bed of lettuce, green onions,
radish and red bell peppers with a clear, sweet lemon vinaigrette.

With each and every diverse plate, Sage seems to hold one mantra close to its chest: There’s no place like home.

Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive
aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or
service when appropriate.

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Joshua Boydston

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